I love it when albums surprise me. It’s refreshing to go in with certain expectations and leave with a sense of excitement. That’s exactly what happened when I listened to the new album from Anki, Circadian. I’ve heard a bunch of music from Anki across 2016, but Circadian truly pushes the envelope on what anyone could have expected from this young producer from Bristol.

I wanted to help share this album in a unique way, and I thought back to a piece I did with Metrik two years ago. We did a full track by track review of his album Universal Language with input from both Metrik and myself, so I thought we could do the same for Anki. Below you’ll find testimonial from Anki in italics and from me. It’s recommended to read the text while you listen to each song.

The album is available for purchase here, but you can listen to each track below along with Anki’s and my commentary.

This album is a strange beast, but I feel like it’s the best example of why I started the Anki alias and the most well-rounded example of all the strange musical corners of my brain. It’s an incredibly personal piece of work; making music for me is a way of processing and working through hard times in my life and this album contains a lot of tracks that come from a dark or troubled place, but the fact that they exist means that I was able to work through it by picking up my guitar and expressing what was in my head as best I could. Broadly, the album deals with the ideas of cycles in my life, of needing to break negative ones and stop myself making the same mistakes. It took around a year of my life to bring these tracks together into something I was proud to call my debut LP and after cutting the track listing down from 19 to 13 and making sure it told the best story I could, I really feel like it was worth it. A lot of sleepless nights, emotional catharsis and broken guitar strings went into it, but now I finally have a body of work I can point to and say “This is me.”

1. Unrepeated

I wrote this track right in the middle of this album work period, but the moment I had the main idea down I absolutely knew it had to be an opener, I mean it even starts with the sound of a projector spinning up, as if to say “Enjoy the show.” It felt like a perfect embodiment of a lot of the ideas of the record and a good amalgamation of the varied sounds throughout. I originally started with the chord sequence and guitar line and fleshed everything out from there, but the song didn’t start to speak to me until the vocal chops, (which is taken from a sample of me saying the word “Testicles”, oddly enough), and I just blitzed through the rest of the writing process with so much energy. The lyrics deal with the idea of trying to get yourself out of a rut and stop making bad decisions on a day to day basis.

The opening track of an album is so important. It sets the tone for everything to come, and so it needs to be not too hard, not too soft, with a perfect hook, and still perfectly representative of your style and intent. With this nearly-six-minute track, Anki has accomplished all that and more. You’ll see listening to the rest of the album that so many styles represented in this track make repeat appearances later on, and build on themes from this track.

2. Miami

Total change of pace here; felt like after quite an introspective, long opener the album needed a shot of energy to keep the pace up. I deliberated for a long time whether to have this on the record, as it’s definitely very different to the rest of the tracks in tone, but my roommate fought hard for its inclusion and I think in retrospect it really works. This was written out of a bit of wanderlust, just wanting to be somewhere sunny, carefree and new. The guitar solo at the end is played on two separate guitars but both are one-take improvisations, which I’ve been trying to re-learn ever since!

Like Anki says, total change of pace here. I really like the switchup, as it’s still held within the motif of the album but it wakes you up after the reverie of the first track. Not only that, but the chord progression is unique and unexpected throughout which is an absolute delight. It’s very Haywyre-esque in that sense.

3. Left To Pay ft. Micah Martin

Felt so good to finally get this out, I actually had the demo for this track all done and dusted over a year ago now, after getting Micah on it about a month after it was done I adored how it came together. We ended up sending the demo over to Tobu who loved it and wanted to collaborate on it, but as you can imagine he’s a very busy guy and ended up going nowhere, but that meant this track was sat going nowhere for a whole year! I love the stacked indie guitars at the start, my teenage influences shining through for sure. Huge shout to Micah who absolutely killed it on vocals as well, really told the story I wanted to tell, so good when a vocalist just “gets” a track.

After “Miami,” we’re back to the smooth guitar chords in the intro of “Left To Pay.” We’re also moving away from the glitchy, almost incoherent progression of “Miami” and we’re getting to progressive house territory, albeit replete with processed guitars. This is also the first track with real lyrics (not to be confused with just vocals) so you can see that the album is continually pushing forward and reinventing itself.

4. Ignite

God this is a strange track! It originally had my vocals over the intro and build, but after a lot of deliberation they just felt a little too soft and dull for such a hard edged, gritty sound set. The track is about the confusing imbalance in your head when a bad relationship is over, of having a lot of sadness and anger but also a feeling of relief and freedom. I tried to capture that in the drop section by alternating a big pretty pad with incredibly harsh basses and white noise, I think it really helps the sell the duality concept.

We’ve got a bit of the future bass style in “Ignite,” but with a very, very texture drop and a lot of white noise. There’s a definite intention with the track though sometimes it’s hard to see what direction it’s going in. That being said, the melody backing the synths is quaint and peaceful, against the rather discordant lead synths and bassline. As Anki says, it plays the duality concept very well.

5. Break Your Fall

Definitely letting my dubstep roots show through on this one, as is evident by the almighty snare that rules the entire groove of the drop section. Letting that breathe and giving it compositional space helped give it such weight and really drives the power of the track. This follows Ignite as it tackles the same theme and issues, the strange euphoria of the end of a relationship, but tinged with that introspective sadness in the verses. This is the second time you hear my voice on the record – the first being Unrepeated but it’s so processed and pitch shifted you’d never know – as the subject matter and scenarios sung about in the verses are very personal and only felt right if it was me singing them.

The first really genre-specific track on the album. You can tell this is dubstep by the arrangement and bpm. That being said, it’s still one of the more creative tracks on the album since it makes use of Anki’s voice, it’s highly personalized and has that switch up on the second drop. Still, the track has a very Illenium-esque vibe to it with the exceptionally melodic nature of the bassline.

6. Interlude; 22

I struggled with where to place this in the track listing for a long time but ended up really liking where it sits, as it’s a lovely palette cleanser and a good transition between the heavier, more bombastic sounds of the previous two tracks and the introspective, more intimate three that follow. I love the story that comes through here, the piano represents an internal monologue of someone who feels cut off from the rest of the world and it’s just them drifting through life while everyone else bustles around them, hence the public noise ambience that slowly fades away through the whole track.

Weren’t expecting an interlude, were ya? Not much to say about this one other than the piano work is beautiful.

7. Both To Blame ft. HICARI

The first of two features from HICARI on this album, they’re wonderfully talented pop-writers and am honoured to have worked with them on both. Love the duet vibe that they went for with this, really works wonderfully with the song writing and overall tone of the track. It begins with the sound of an old rotary phone being picked up and dialing, love what that evokes, really sets the scene well. My favourite part by a long way is the strange cross-rhythms in the guitar and how that meshes with the drum beat in the second verse, my math-rock side coming out to play a bit.

“Both To Blame” begins after the interlude in much the same way that “Unrepeated” began the album, except instead of a projector whirring to life, it’s the sound of a rotary phone dial being spun. We’re back again with the very smooth bassline and synths, along with really great vocal work from duo HICARI. I also really love the lyrics in this one, “I know we’re both to blame, but I’d do it all over again.” As well as, “I’m sorry I messed up when I called you by my ex’s name.” There’s an accessibility to them, as if thinking, “Yeah, that could totally be me.”

8. Take Me Home ft. Sophia

The more intimate, emotional section continues with a much more planted, downtempo track. This one has been in the bank forever now, I had the instrumental for this finished up for about 18 months so this one has been a very long time coming. Interestingly this is the only track on the record apart from Interlude that contains absolutely no guitar, loved the tone of the main keyboard sound and wanted to base the entire track around that. Massive shout out to Sophia for turning this age-old track into a song, her awesome and unique vocal performance on this really sells it.

So much energy in this track! You wouldn’t see it coming, what with Sophia’s almost lullaby-esque voice, but it comes in so naturally. It’s good, too, because the album was at risk of stagnating around this point. But with the pounding, rhythmic energy of “Take Me Home” that worry is cast aside and I find myself up and dancing around again.

9. Tapestry

This is the kind of climax of this more intimate section of the album and is by far the most personal, down-beat and low-energy. This song again features my vocals and deals with the heart-breaking situation of being in love with someone who has no idea who they are and changes their personal identity on a whim and the frustration and anger that can cause. The original recording of this track sounds very different as it was originally just guitar by itself, but once I worked out what I wanted this track to say it needed a lot more instrumentation and everything got pitch-shifted down about two and a half tones to make sure it was in my vocal range, I have some very different sounding demos of this one!

The energy is brought down once again as Anki lends his vocals to another personal track. The back-and-forth in energy between tracks is a little tiresome, but this track has some of the best lyrics of any EDM track out there, especially in the delivery. The guitar also plays exquisitely in this as the bassline sways neatly.

10. Midnight ft. HICARI

Now that the more intimate section of the album is over I really wanted a big hit of energy and a very obvious change of tone to take us into the last stretch and this was the perfect fit. I adore this top line, I wrote in on guitar a very long time ago but once I had the main beat and chords for this track done I put it on top and it just absolutely shone. Again, huge shout out to HICARI for absolutely killing it on the vocals front, brought some real feel good energy and helps set this track apart tonally. The guitar solo at the end of this one is a very simple one – a lot easier to re-learn than Miami was – but so fun to play, very much looking forward to seeing what I can do with this one live.

Alright, we’re bringing the energy back up! Effervescent synths and a wide soundscape give this track lots of room to breathe and sway and flow with a natural ease. HICARI returns for vocal duty on another great performance. The guitar at the end of this provides a great polyrhythm between the piano and really expands the scope of the track.

11. Still Need You

Keeping the energy up after Midnight was important so made sense to put the highest energy track on the album after it. This is a very weird one, but very fun, I love being able to show off a bit of my dubstep past with the sound design and chops on this track and the guitar stacks in the intro roll so nicely. The main lead in the drop took a lot of taming as it’s a very frantic line but I think it sits nicely now and really helps the energy of the whole track.

We’re getting into super glitchy territory here and I love it. The pulsating energy of the drop is infectious and you can hear how it rises and falls in a non-linear fashion. Going into the bridge, of course, it’s smooth and tame. But soon enough it erupts back into a beautiful chaos.

12. Memories

By far the most experimental track on the album, I really like it when big bodies of work have an experimental track or two in there. On my last release, I did a short two minute track that explored this avenue, so for this album I really wanted to push that and expand on those ideas. This track tackles the strange experience of dreaming about someone you used to know well and trying to hold on to that feeling for the rest of the day, but the images become all warped and distorted in your head the more you try and remember. The main bit-crushed piano hip-hop loop is that dream and throughout the track it gets pulled apart in a tonne of different ways, it was really fun working to a concept and trying to express that instrumentally.

One of the things lost in electronic music that I felt acoustic, “traditional” music, if you will, did so well is evoking a story within its sound. I’m happy that EDM has once again begun to harness that ability, especially with artists like Lido and Crywolf. However, even in completely instrumental work there’s still a way to evoke emotion and purpose – we saw this as early as classical music. People that are exposed to the fringes of EDM at clubs and in TV commercials are bereft of the very real possibilities of electronic music as an art form.

13. Circadian

This track has taken a few years off my life I think! It took a long time before I was happy that this said what I wanted it to say, a real labour of love but I’m so happy with how it all came together in the end. I worked on this for about a year all in all, so whilst all these other tracks were coming together I was working on this the entire time, so this is essentially the story of my year and this album in general. The basic idea of this is to expand the idea of cycles and spin it into an entire track, with each melody, chord sequence and rhythmic cycle all representing a different part of my life. Each “cycle” is very much it’s own theme, which taken on their own can be quite simple, but the musicality comes from the way they all weave together and build into this big wall of noise. I have a massive soft spot in my heart for prog-rock and instrumental bands like 65daysofstatic and And So I Watch You From Afar, which I think shines through with the second half of this track. I’d always wanted to write some electronic music in 3/4 time and this ended up being a great fit, as the way that subtly affects all the cycles from the beginning and really helps tell the story I wanted to. This is a big, self-indulgent emotional splurge of a track, but it’s a very big part of me. The goal was for every time someone listened to this track, a new melody or cycle would pop out to them and they could try and follow it through the track and see how it evolves and intersects with the other sounds, there are lots of them hidden in there so I’ll be intrigued to see how many people find!

I have nothing more I could say about this track, Anki’s said everything already.

You can purchase Circadian by Anki here.